The support for the workers at POAL is growing by the day. Thousands of people turned out to march yesterday and the mainstream media has woken up to just how vicious the port’s tactics are.
But it’s not just the public support that is with the wharfies and their families. They’ve got the industrial muscle too – with port workers from around the world announcing they’ll blacklist ships loaded at POAL by strike-breaking labour.
And from what I hear POAL is in serious legal trouble as well.
All that could save POAL now would be the government intervening. But this government doesn’t have spare political capital to throw away by legislatively backing a despised port board against ordinary working Kiwis. It would have done so in the first sitting week if the management had managed to run a decent PR campaign against the union (in fact my sources tell me that was the original plan cooked up between the port board and the NACT crew – demonise the port workers over the xmas break and then invoke strategic economic interests to bang through more anti-union legislation).
Instead POAL is f**ked. They’re not going to get the contractors they need (and in fact the contracting companies themselves may yet discover that getting involved in this was a poor business decision), and the contractors they do get will be sitting idle because nobody will want to risk running cargo through Auckland unless they have to. They may even find they can’t legally employ a new workforce anyway.
In fact I’m calling time on Tony Gibson. This dispute will finish him. Sure he’ll stay on as CEO in name while someone else sorts this mess out but once the deal is done and the dispute leaves the spotlight he’ll be down the road. Probably for “family reasons”.
The thing is, I’ve seen this happen over and over again. Union members and their supporters have a long history of handing these wannabe Roarks their arses. Every major company that has tried to screw its workers in the last ten or so years has had a taste. International Paper had a taste, Progressive Enterprises had a taste, Air New Zealand had quite a few. And, despite getting his law change, Peter Jackson got a taste when he attacked union members after they settled (as did Key – another reason he’ll be keeping away from this one).
And yet Tony Gibson and his dad’s army of board members thought they’d get away with this? It just goes to show the calibre of corporate leadership we have in this country.
And just as an aside – Len Brown (and to a lesser extent David Shearer): you should have realised right from the start which way this was going to go. Backing union members wasn’t the political risk you faced. It never is.